|And they’re off . . .|
On 2 February, 2008, the first Run for Relief ever held in Burma was run in northern Karen State. There were over 100 participants, mostly school children in grades one to seven from the local village. They ran on a brilliant Saturday morning, following a course around rice fields and up and over a hill, starting and finishing at the school. The race began with shouts of “Free Burma!” and a prayer to remember their brothers and sisters throughout Burma and especially in northern Karen State where there are more than 30,000 people now living in hiding from the Burma Army. The run was followed by a time of singing and then refreshments of sweet hot tea with cookies. Several of the students, teachers and FBR team members talked about organizing another Run for Relief in the future so that more villages could participate.
Just three weeks before the run, these same children had crossed the fields carrying chalkboards and books as they returned from their hiding place in the jungle to resume classes at their school.
|Students carrying a chalkboard as they return from hiding|
Their village is about two hours’ walk away from the a Burma Army camp and a Burma Army-controlled road; here, villagers hear the booms of mortars and gunshots several times a week. In response to increased troop levels at the camp in December, most of the villagers had relocated to safer areas and the school had been moved further down the valley so that it would be out of mortar range. The villagers began to gradually return to their homes in January, as troop levels dropped down to normal.
This is what freedom looks like here, small acts of boldness and moments of fun –in the presence of the enemy
The first Run for Relief Burma was held five years ago at Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church in Gig harbor, Washington, with the slogan “For a million villagers in Burma, running is not a choice.” Runs have since been held all over the world, including several different locations in the U.S., Australia, Norway, Scotland and Thailand. They serve first to raise awareness about the situation in Burma, and, second, to raise funds for humanitarian relief to the internally displaced people of Burma. For information on how to host a run, please send enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.